U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook

By James W. Davis | Go to book overview

5 The Caucus-Convention System

To the uninitiated the multitiered caucus-convention system nominating national convention delegates is a complicated operation. The first step in the process begins at the precinct level.

A precinct caucus is a meeting conducted by a political party to nominate and elect precinct delegates to the county convention. Any party member who lives in the precinct is eligible to participate in all of the precinct's business. As the main order of business, partisans declare and vote their preference among the presidential candidates. In the Democratic Party, delegates are chosen, then, in proportion to the presidential preferences of those attending the precinct caucus. In the Republican Party, delegates may be allocated either on a winner-take-all basis or proportionally. Since 1976, however, the Democratic National Committee has refused to accept state party rules in which a presidential candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a caucus or primary wins all of the state's delegates. 1 Democratic rules require that all states adhere to some form of proportional representation in selecting precinct and convention delegates.


PRECINCT CAUCUSES

In a sense, the modern caucus system is similar to a primary in that all party members within the state are eligible to participate. In Iowa, for example, the 2,500 precinct caucuses are convened each four years on a frosty winter evening in local homes, schools, fire stations, and even local barbershops. Attendees at the precinct caucuses elect a designated number of precinct delegates (usually allocated on the basis of the popular vote in

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U.S. Presidential Primaries and the Caucus-Convention System: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Presidential Nominations-- American Style 1
  • Introduction 8
  • 2 - History of Presidential Nominations (1789-1968) 9
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Party Reform 20
  • Notes 32
  • 4 - Presidential Primaries in the Postreform Era (1972-1996) 34
  • Notes 44
  • 5 - The Caucus-Convention System 45
  • Notes 57
  • 6 - National Convention Delegate Selection Before and After Mcgovern-Fraser Reforms 59
  • Notes 66
  • 7 - Who Are the Delegates? 67
  • Notes 81
  • 8 - Nominating Strategies 83
  • Summary 98
  • Notes 99
  • 9 - Nominating Finance 101
  • Notes 122
  • 10 - Supreme Court Decisions and Presidential Nominations 125
  • Notes 132
  • 11 - Primaries, Caucuses, and the Mass Media 134
  • Notes 144
  • 12 - Primary Debates 146
  • Notes 155
  • 13 - Polls and Primaries 157
  • Notes 170
  • 14 - Voter Participation in Primaries and Caucuses 172
  • Notes 192
  • 15 - Proposed National Primary 195
  • Notes 205
  • 16 - Regional Primaries 206
  • Notes 213
  • 17 - National Preprimary Convention Plan and Other Recent Reform Proposals 215
  • Notes 221
  • 18 - National Nominating Conventions 223
  • Notes 251
  • 19 - Presidential Nominations: The Perot Model 254
  • Notes 261
  • Appendixes 263
  • Glossary 269
  • Selected Bibliography 275
  • Index 283
  • About the Author 295
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